Oct. 17 2012 10:38 AM

Candidate deceives to score cheap points, champions transparency only when convenient

Carl DeMaio
Photo by David Rolland

The Carl DeMaio campaign on Monday sent out a press release titled "Bob Filner's unhinged weekend," attempting to portray DeMaio's opponent as a furious human powder keg that's liable to explode at any minute, hoping the press will repeat the narrative and plant it in the minds of voters. The release was peppered with words and phrases like "lost it," "explosive," "angrily," "outbursts" and "unglued."

As an example, the campaign cited Filner's interruption of DeMaio's closing remarks in a debate over the weekend, as DeMaio was criticizing Filner for not turning down a pension and being in line to collect $120,000 in annual retirement benefits.

Filner's interruption was not an "outburst." He didn't even raise his voice above his normal debate volume. He merely stopped DeMaio and said that he couldn't allow him to lie to the audience like that. Filner had already given his closing statement. Was DeMaio lying? If intentional deception is lying, then, yes. DeMaio is trying to deceive voters into thinking that a $120,000 annual pension is attributable to Filner being elected mayor.

DeMaio got the $120,000 figure from Voice of San Diego's reporting. But, as Voice's Liam Dillon concluded, that number includes more than $59,000 in pension benefits from Filner's 20 years in Congress, more than $14,000 from his time as an SDSU professor and more than $8,000 from his time on the San Diego City Council. If Filner were to get elected to two terms as mayor, he'd get another $37,262 per year in pension benefits. More than $82,000 of the figure DeMaio's throwing around has nothing to do with the mayoral election.

Most importantly, DeMaio can get away with scoring cheap political points by turning down retirement benefits, and chastising others to do the same, because he's rich—partly the result of his private business winning taxpayer-funded government contracts. DeMaio apparently doesn't need retirement benefits; in his brief career in politics, he's spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money promoting himself.

We applaud Filner for standing up for pensions. Whenever DeMaio brings it up, Filner notes that he, like anyone who's earned a pension, has worked hard for it, and there's no reason for him to turn it down. Doing so would aid DeMaio's shameful crusade to turn the acceptance of a pension into some kind of character flaw.


Speaking of DeMaio and retirement benefits, did you see Kelly Davis' story in last week's CityBeatIt told of how an independent analysis of the city's new, interim 401(k)—which said the plan would cost the city money in the short term but begin saving money by 2032—was based on some outdated information and quietly replaced by a new analysis that said the plan would cost taxpayers money in the long run.

As Davis reported, state law requires such analyses to be posted publicly for two weeks before any related legislative action. The new analysis was available only to people who showed up at the Oct. 1 City Council meeting.

At that meeting, even though the firm that did the study was in the room and prepared for discussion, DeMaio—who touts himself as a paragon of transparency—rushed a vote on the 401(k) plan, which was a result of the DeMaio-hyped Prop. B that passed in June and subsequent negotiations with the city employee unions. No discussion.

Why? Because that might have undermined the tale that DeMaio's been spinning since he started campaigning for Prop. B. At a press conference last Friday, former City Councilmember Donna Frye said DeMaio had come down with "a bad case of selective disclosure disorder."

Asked to comment on our story, DeMaio spokesperson K.B. Forbes said, "An adjustment to a 20-year projection is irrelevant. This is a temporary plan in place for less than one year. This temporary plan will not be in place for the 20 years as projections assume." We'll see.

Funny, DeMaio has never met a labor contract he likes; he's opposed every agreement between the city and its unions since he took office—even landmark changes to the retiree-healthcare system estimated to save the city more than $800 million over 25 years. He's argued that taxpayers are kept in the dark about the details of these agreements. This was his chance to give the new retirement plan a full public vetting. The difference was that, this time, transparency and taxpayer advocacy wouldn't have served his personal political agenda.

What do you think? Write to editor@sdcitybeat.com.


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